Apple AirPods & AirPods 2 Guide: Charging, Pairing, Setting Up, Using, More

Got a new pair of AirPods, or, now that they're finally on the market, second-generation AirPods? Once you know how to set up, connect, and configure them, you'll discover why people who own a pair of Apple's wireless earbuds love them. We're here to help get you started with this AirPods and AirPods 2 guide, which will cover everything from Siri setting and volume controls, to battery life and charging, to renaming your AirPods, and much more. 

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Related: Apple AirPods Review: Are Apple's Wireless Earbuds Worth the Buy?

The AirPods offer crisp, clear sound quality for both listening and speaking through the built-in microphones, as well as a charging case with 24-hour life for easy battery management, and the ability to pair and unpair with many different Apple products. The second-generation earbuds offer even more features and a longer battery life! Apple CEO Tim Cook describes AirPods as "practically magic" and explains, "the pairing is seamless, and as someone is talking to you, if you take one out the music will automatically stop, and if you replace it starts again." Let's get started learning how to use your "magical" new AirPods! 

AirPods & Second-Generation AirPods Guide Table of Contents

1. Connect/Pair Your AirPods or Second-Generation AirPods

2. Basics of AirPods Use

3. How to Configure Original & Second-Generation AirPods

4. Set Up Find My Phone & Find Lost AirPods & AirPods 2

5. AirPods & Second-Generation AirPods Battery Life & Charging

6. How to Reset AirPods & AirPods 2

7. Which Devices Can My AirPods Connect To?

8. Which Devices Can My AirPods 2 Connect To?

Connect/Pair Your AirPods or Second-Generation AirPods 

Let's get started learning how to pair your AirPods.

Pair Your AirPods to an iPhone & Apple Watch

  • Make sure you are signed into your iCloud account on your iPhone; we'll get to the "why" of this step later.
  • Navigate to the Home screen on your iPhone, then bring the AirPods close to your phone; they should be in their case, and the case should be open.
  • Within a few seconds, you'll see a screen asking if you'd like to connect your AirPods to your iPhone; tap Connect, then tap Done when your devices are finished pairing. 
  • If you have an Apple Watch paired to the iPhone you just connected your AirPods to, your AirPods will be connected to your Apple Watch as well. Sound will automatically switch between your Apple Watch and iPhone.

For Second-Generation AirPods

  • If you've already set up "Hey Siri" on your iPhone, then you'll automatically be able to use this feature with your AirPods 2. If you haven't yet set up Hey Siri, don't worry, there will be step-by-step instructions on your device to guide you through the process. 

case connect

Pair AirPods to Your iPad or a Different iPhone

If your iPhone and iPad are signed in to the same iCloud account using the same Apple ID, you'll be able to bring your AirPods close to your iPad, and they'll automatically pair. If you haven't taken this step, it will take a little more effort to pair your AirPods to your iPad. These directions also work for pairing your AirPods to a different iPhone.

  • Hold your AirPods, case open, close to your iPad; tap connect when a prompt like the one below appears.

how to connect airpods

  • Press and hold the Setup button as directed.

connect wireless earbuds

  • You'll see a message like the one below indicating that your AirPods are connecting to your iPad.

connect apple airpods

  • Tap Done when the AirPods have finished pairing, and you'll be able to begin using them.

connect airpods

Pair AirPods or Second-Generation AirPods to Your Mac

If you already paired your AirPods to your iPhone and your Mac is signed into the same iCloud account with the same Apple ID, pairing will be quick. 

  • Put your AirPods in your ears, then click on the Apple icon in your Mac's Menu Bar, then choose System Preferences.

pair airpods to mac

  • Click on Bluetooth in the System Preferences menu.

system preferences mac

  • You'll see a menu of Bluetooth devices available; choose your AirPods.

pair earbuds to mac

  • If you don't see your AirPods in the Bluetooth options you'll need to make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your Mac; check the status under the Bluetooth symbol. Tap Turn Bluetooth On

enable bluetooth on mac

  • Once Bluetooth is on, hold your AirPods case with the lid open and AirPods inside near your Mac. Press and hold the Setup button on the back of the case until the Status light begins to flash white.

airpods setup button

  • Your AirPods should now be an option in the Bluetooth menu.
  • Once your AirPods are paired with your Mac, you can choose to listen to audio from your Mac through the AirPods by opening System Preferences again and choosing Sound.

pair earpods

  • You'll see your AirPods in the Output menu, click on them.

how to use airpods with mac

Pair Your AirPods to an Apple TV

*AirPods can pair to your Apple TV if it's running tvOS 11 or later, whereas second-generation AirPods require an Apple TV running at least tvOS 12.2.*

Beginning with iOS 11, the Apple TV joined the group of devices that can automatically pair to your AirPods if it's signed in to iCloud using the same Apple ID. If your Apple TV isn't signed in using the same Apple ID, you can follow the manual setup instructions below. 

To connect your AirPods to your Apple TV:

  • Open your AirPods case, leaving the AirPods inside, and bring them close to your Apple TV.
  • Press and hold the Setup button, or Pairing button, on the back of the AirPods case.
  • Open the Settings app on your Apple TV.
  • Select Remotes and Devices, then select Bluetooth.
  • Choose your AirPods from the list of devices that appears, then choose Connect Device.

Once your AirPods have been paired to your Apple TV, you can select them from the menu of recognized devices any time you want. Just navigate to your Apple TV's Home Screen and press the Play button on the remote. A menu of paired devices will appear; choose your AirPods. 

To unpair your AirPods from your Apple TV, go back through the Settings > Remote and Devices > Bluetooth > choose your AirPods from the list > Choose Forget Device > Confirm. 

Basics of AirPods & AirPods 2 Use

AirPods are meant to be a seamless and helpful addition to your daily experience with Apple devices. They're ready to use as soon as you take them out of their case, and when you put one or both in your ears, they start playing audio automatically. When you take one AirPod out, your audio will pause, and when you take both out, it stops altogether. Here are a few more things you should know about how your AirPods work:

Turn Volume Up & Down on AirPods

You can adjust the volume on your AirPods by asking Siri to do it, or by turning the volume up or down on the device on which you're listening to music or other. To learn more on follow our tutorial on how to raise or lower the volume on your AirPods

Change Volume on AirPods 2

If you're using second-generation AirPods you can raise or lower the volume by saying, "Hey Siri," then asking your virtual assistant to turn the volume up or down. 

Answer Calls with AirPods & Use Siri to Announce Calls

Another useful feature is the ability to answer calls with your AirPods by double tapping either AirPod and then double tapping again to disconnect.

You can also have Siri announce your incoming calls by going to Settings > Phone > Announce Calls and choosing Always, Headphones & Car, or Headphones Only. If you decide to turn this feature off, return to the Announce Calls settings and choose Never.

Other Helpful Siri Commands 

Besides asking Siri to announce calls, you can also use your AI assistant to do other AirPods related tasks. Just be sure to turn on Hey Siri on your paired iPhone, then try some of these commands and questions: 

"Hey Siri, turn up (or down) the volume."

"Hey Siri, skip to the next song."

"Hey Siri, pause the music."

"Hey Siri, play my Workout playlist."

"Hey Siri, how do I get to work from here?"

"Hey Siri, where's the nearest coffee shop?"

If you own a pair of AirPods 2, you won't have to double-tap your earbud to summon Siri, although that option is still available. 

Switching Audio Output to AirPods or AirPods 2

If you have your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch paired with multiple speakers or headphones, you'll want to know how to choose AirPods to play audio from on that device. For example, to choose your AirPods for audio output on your iPhone:

  • Open the Control Center on your iPhone by swiping down from the top-right corner of your screen for the iPhone X or later, or up from the bottom of the screen for earlier iPhones.
  • Touch and hold the audio card in the upper-right corner of your Control Center.
  • Tap the pyramid icon.

switch bluetooth device on iphonecontrol center

  • Now you'll see the option to change audio output to all the Bluetooth devices connected to your iPhone; you can tap on AirPods to choose them.

use airpods with iphone

How to Configure AirPods & Second-Generation AirPods

You can use your iOS device to configure your AirPods in the following ways:

Double-Tap Shortcut

AirPods 2 can use the new touch-free "Hey Siri" prompt to accomplish all the tasks that previously required a double-tap. If you've gotten used to tapping your AirPods and want to keep using this gesture, though, they all still work with the AirPods 2. 

We went over how to answer or hang up a call using the double tap above, but you have several other options for how to configure your AirPods so they'll respond differently to the double tap. Learn how to use your left or right AirPod to play or pause audio, skip to the next track, jump back to the previous track, or turn your AirPod off.

  • You can find all these double tap options on your iPhone by going to Settings > Bluetooth to open a list of paired Bluetooth device.
  • Next, tap the info icon next to AirPods and tap on each AirPod to choose the function that you want it to control from the menu of AirPod functions.

Turn Off Automatic Ear Detection

Using the same steps you took to arrive at the double-tap shortcut options, you can also choose to enable or disable automatic ear detection. Just open the Settings app on your iOS device as before, then select Bluetooth and tap on the lower-case i next to your AirPods. From here you'll be taken to this screen:

turn off automatic ear detection

Toggle Automatic Ear Detection off if you don't want audio to switch from your paired device to your AirPods whenever you put one or both AirPods in your ears.

Microphone Controls

You can also adjust your AirPod's microphone settings from this same page. Tap on Microphone underneath Automatic Ear Detection, and you'll see this screen:

airpods microphone

You can decide to let your AirPods Microphone automatically switch back and forth from left to right as needed, or to always use the left or right earbud for mic function. The automatic option allows your microphone to remain functional even if you're only using one AirPod. 

Rename Your AirPods

If you'd like to rename your AirPods:

  • Open the Settings app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
  • Tap on Bluetooth.
  • Tap the lower-case i next to your AirPods.

bluetooth settingschange airpods settings

  • Tap Name.
  • Tap the x to the right of your AirPod's name and enter the new name you prefer.

change airpods namechange earbuds name

Set Up Find My Phone & Find Lost AirPods & AirPods 2

Once you've set up Find My iPhone, you'll be able to see the location of all the devices signed in under your Apple ID from the Find My iPhone app or at iCloud.com. This is an important step in safeguarding your Apple devices should any of them get lost or stolen; and with iOS 10.3 and later, you'll be able to locate your AirPods or AirPods 2 using this feature too. 

Once you've paired your AirPods to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch that's signed in to your Apple ID and has Find My iPhone set up, they'll be automatically included in the feature and visible on the Find My iPhone map. 

airpods

If you see a green dot next to your AirPods in the device list, as in the image above, it means that they're charged and in range. Here's where this feature gets really useful; if your AirPods are within Bluetooth range of a paired device you can activate a two-minute tone that gets gradually louder, helping you locate one or both of them. To turn this on:

  • Tap on your AirPods in the device list under the map.
  • Tap Actions at the bottom of your screen, then tap Play Sound.
  • If you've only lost one AirPod, or if you've found one but not the other, you can tap Mute Left or Mute Right to hone in on the location of the missing earbud. 
  • Tap Stop Playing once you've found your AirPods and want the tone to stop, or repeat the process if two minutes wasn't long enough to locate both earbuds. 

apple airpods

If you see a gray dot next to your AirPods they're out of range of your connected device or out of battery; the map will show the last time and location they were traceable. If your AirPods come back within range or if they're charged, you'll receive a notification on your paired device.

AirPods & Second-Generation AirPods Battery Life & Charging

Apple's original AirPods last a fairly long time per charge; two hours of talk time or five hours of listening. Even better, if you've fully charged your AirPods case, you'll be able to talk for up to 11 hours and listen for up to 24 as long as your recharge the AirPods in the case. The second-generation AirPods can last even longer between charges; three hours of talk time, five hours of listening time, and a more than 24 hour battery life with a fully-charged battery case! How do you know your AirPods need a charge?

How to Check Your AirPod's Charge Status

You can use your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Mac to check the charge status of your AirPods and their case. To check with one of your iOS devices:

  • Your AirPods will need to be connected to the device you'd like to use to check their charge status.
  • Open your AirPods case, leaving your AirPods inside, and hold the open case near your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch.
  • The battery levels of both your AirPods and their charging case will appear on screen within a few seconds.
  • You can also check these levels using the Battery widget in your Today View, follow this link to learn how to add this widget if it's not in your Today View yet.

airpods battery lifeapple charging case

  • Another way to check the battery levels on your AirPods and their case is to ask Siri.

ask siri airpods charge

To check your AirPod's charge level on your Mac: 

  • Open the lid of the charging case or remove your AirPods from their case.
  • Click the Apple icon in your Mac's menu bar, then tap System Preferences, then Bluetooth.
  • You'll see your AirPods in the Bluetooth menu, along with a graphic of how full or depleted their batteries are.

check airpods charge on mac

Check the Charge Status of Your Charging Case

It's easy to tell at a glance if your AirPods case needs a charge. The new wireless charging case has a status light on the front, while the original case has the status light on the inside of the lid. For both accessories, the light glows amber if less than a full charge is remaining and green if it's fully charged.

AirPods charging case status light

If your AirPods are inside their case with the lid open, the status light will indicate the charge level of your earbuds rather than the charging case. Again, green indicates a full charge and amber means that your AirPods need to be topped off.

How to Charge Your AirPods or Your Second-Generation AirPods

If your AirPods batteries are depleted, you'll hear a tone in one or both earbuds indicating that your batteries are low. If you don't charge after that, you'll hear one more tone before your AirPods shut down. So how do you go about charging your AirPods? As long as the case has a charge, all you need to do is put your earbuds into the charging case and close the lid.

To charge the AirPod case, plug the charging case into a power source with the USB to Lightning cable it came with. If you've purchased the new wireless charging case, you can also place the case on a wireless charger.

In only fifteen minutes your AirPods will have charged enough for three hours of listening or over an hour of talk time. When you aren't using your AirPods, keep them in the case to preserve their charge. You can also opt to use only one AirPod and switch back and forth from using the left or right earbud to save battery life. 

Wireless Charging Case for AirPods & AirPods 2

Apple announced a wireless charging case for AirPods at the same time it revealed the second-generation earbuds. Now you can charge your orginal AirPods or AirPods 2 without using a cable; just fifteen minutes of charging in the new wireless case will allow for up to three hours of listening. You can purchase a second-generation pair with the wireless case for $159, or purchase just the wireless charging case for your original AirPods for $79.

air pods charging case

How to Reset AirPods & AirPods 2

If you're having battery or other issues with your AirPods, you can reset them using your iOS device. To reset:

  • Open the Settings app on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad and tap Bluetooth.
  • Tap the lower-case i icon next to the AirPods that need to be reset.
  • Tap Forget This Device and confirm your choice.

unpair airpods and AirPods 2how to reset AirPods

  • Now, put your AirPods in their case and close the lid, wait 30 seconds, and open the lid again.
  • Press and hold the Setup button on the back of the case for at least five seconds.

airpods setup button

  • The status light should flash white. If it flashes amber, you'll need to close the case lid and connect the case to power for at least ten minutes, then try again.

AirPods charging case status light

  • Once the status light flashes white, you can reconnect your AirPods to your devices (it will have disconnected from all devices that share the same iCloud account). Some customized settings will need to be set up again.

Which Devices Can My AirPods Connect To?

To use your AirPods, you'll need to connect them to one of the devices listed below. 

iPhone, iPad &iPod Touch

If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch that's updated to iOS 10 or later, you'll be able to pair it with your AirPods. Check below to see if your device is able to update to iOS 10 or later. 

Apple Watch

If you'd like to pair your AirPods to your Apple Watch, your watch must be updated to watchOS 3 or later. 

Apple TV

If you want to connect your Apple TV to your AirPods, you'll need the Apple TV to be updated to tvOS 11 or later.

Mac

To pair your AirPods to your Mac, make sure your Mac is updated to MacOS Sierra or later.

airpods compatible

Which Devices Can My AirPods 2 Connect To?

Second-generation AirPods are a bit more limited in which devices they can connect to. Read on to learn which devices running which operating systems will pair with your new earbuds.

iPhone, iPad &iPod Touch

If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch that's updated to iOS 12.2 or later, you'll be able to pair it with your AirPods. 

Apple Watch

If you'd like to pair your AirPods to your Apple Watch, your watch must be updated to watchOS 5.2 or later. 

Apple TV

If you want to connect your Apple TV to your AirPods, you'll need the Apple TV to be updated to tvOS 12.2 or later.

Mac

To pair your AirPods to your Mac, make sure your Mac is updated to MacOS Sierra or later.

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Leanne Hays's picture

Leanne Hays is a Feature Web Writer at iPhone Life.  She loves reading and blogging, and is never without a book in her backpack or an audiobook on her phone. Short-term goals include finishing painting her house and starting an aquaponics farm, long-term goals include a bike tour of Italy and writing a novel.